Gifted with the Spirit: Confirmation
Senior High, Lesson #4 “Your Journey of Initiation”
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Sponsors:
The process of Confirmation for your daughters/sons is modeled on the process used in the early Church to bring new members into the small community of believers. In those early centuries, becoming a member of the Church involved stages of inquiry and learning. In recent times, the steps were restored for bringing adults into the Church in a process called RCIA: The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
RCIA involves a Period of Evangelization, i.e. learning about Jesus and the Gospel for the first time (formally), called the Precatechumenate. The “catechumens” are those who are asking to come into the Church. They are paired with faithful Catholics who act as their sponsors and help them to learn about the faith and to grow in discipleship with a healthy spirituality.
In the next stage, candidates enter the period called the Catechumenate. They are now formally being prepared for the sacraments of initiation. They come to Mass to be with the community of faith and to hear the Scriptures, but they are not yet permitted to receive Holy Communion.
At the beginning of Lent, the catechumens enter the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. These 40 days are immediate preparation for their entry into the Church. The entire Church’s penitence from Ash Wednesday until Easter is modeled on this ancient period of preparation for new Christians. It’s why we give things up for Lent. During this period, the candidates are now called “the elect.”
Finally, at the most important Mass of the year, the Easter Vigil, the elect are Baptized, Confirmed, and receive the Eucharist for the first time. These are the three sacraments of initiation. The elect, in other words, are welcomed into the Church as full members. Significantly, though, this is not the end of the process. Following their initiation, the neophytes (new Christians) enter a period of mystagogy (which means “interpretation of mystery” in Greek) during which they continue learning about Christ and the demands of the Gospel. Ideally, all Christians life their lives in this final stage. We continue to learn and to grow as Christians.
Your sons/daughters have already been baptized and have been welcomed to the Table of the Lord in the Eucharist. Their initiation, in most cases, will be completed at Confirmation. In this sacrament, the Church calls upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen the young Christians. Traditionally, the Church speaks of 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit given by God to help build up the Christian person and the Church. These are:
- Wisdom – helping us to know the truth
- Understanding – helping us to live in accordance with the truth
- Counsel (Right Judgment) – helping us to know good from evil
- Fortitude (Courage) – helping us to live our faith and to stand up for Christ and the Gospel
- Knowledge – helping us to become ever more intimately familiar with and connected to God
- Piety (Reverence) – helps us to worship God properly and to show God the respect that is due
- Fear of the Lord (Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence) – helps us be humble and trusting in God
Moreover, following St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, we name 12 Fruits of the Spirit. These are signs that a Christian is living in accord with the gifts of the Spirit and living in God’s grace:
- Charity – love of God above all and love of neighbor as ourselves, even our enemies
- Joy – deep contentment that doesn’t erode with the waves of passing pleasures and pains
- Peace – the result of a conscience that is not troubled
- Patience – from the Latin patior, meaning “to suffer,” we can handle waiting for God’s answers
- Kindness – Stern when we must be, but always loving in our interactions with others
- Goodness – virtuous living has formed good habits in us, making it easier to do what is right
- Generosity – Recognizing that everything we have is God’s gift, meant to be shared liberally
- Gentleness – As God is, despite our sins and failures, so are we towards the weakness of others
- Faithfulness – As in a marriage, fidelity is essential for love to grow and deepen over time
- Modesty – Humble in character and respectful in appearance
- Self-control – Alive in the Spirit, the Christian learns discipline, the root of the word “disciple”
- Chastity – A healthy integration of our spirituality and our sexuality that is loving and life-giving
In the sacrament of Confirmation, our young people are given an opportunity to claim this faith, to re-affirm what you affirmed for them at their Baptism. They have the chance to claim the faith for themselves as full members of the Church. They are invited to deepen their relationship with God through participation in the Church that Jesus founded on the Apostles with Peter as the first pope.
In short, they (and we) are challenged “to see the deeper meaning of human life and love through the grace and faith offered to us by the Church.”
 From the student lesson, page 6.
Kevin Dowd is a doctoral candidate in theology and education at Boston College, where he also received his M.Ed. A graduate of Harvard University, Kevin has taught in Catholic schools and public schools in both Massachusetts and New York. Currently he teaches theology at Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA and writes a weekly blog connecting the Sunday readings to life. You can read the blog at http://www.bayardinc.com/the-word-is-life/